The web of life in coasts and seas is dependent on critical areas that function as nurseries for young fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other marine organisms.  The nursery services that these marine and coastal habitats provide are dependent on healthy coastal ecosystems, which depend in turn on both healthy freshwater and healthy marine ecosystems.

The linkages between fresh, brackish, and saltwater systems are easily disrupted when we ignore the balance between water quality and quantity that is needed by both humans and the rest of nature, or when our use of space and extraction of resources precludes the use of these areas by other species. 

To avoid creating such imbalances, we must protect critical nursery areas and restore those already degraded, and plan coastal development and practice fisheries management in ways that avoid negative impacts on marine nursery areas. A key step in this process is increasing our understanding of where these nursery areas are, how they function and how they can best be protected or restored.  Last but not least, we need to allocate sufficient financial and political resources to the conservation of the areas that provide nursery services.

Although marine nurseries may be located far from where you live, you can make a difference when it comes to the fate of these areas, in your everyday life and within your local community. Here’s how:

Become more aware of the effects of your everyday habits by:

  • Researching consumer choices in the supermarket and choosing fish products that have been harvested sustainably (i.e. choosing products from fisheries that are not dwindling and which are harvested without causing destruction of nursery habitat)
  • Avoiding over fertilizing your lawn or treating your garden with pesticides, and choosing native plants that thrive in you local environment
  • Disposing of wastes, especially hazardous ones, carefully – never pouring such poisons into sewers or drains
  • Using freshwater frugally, or better yet, creating a gray water system for watering
  • Supporting “green” or eco-friendly resorts, golf courses, and beachfront developments that show regard for environmental impacts and work hard to minimize such impacts

Become active by:

  • Supporting marine and coastal protected areas
  • Abiding by recycling and pollution regulations and educating others about them
  • Participating in beach clean-ups and helping plant vegetation along waterways
  • Volunteering to monitor coastal use and the condition of the marine environment
  • Supporting environmental groups and politicians that campaign to keep coastal ecosystems healthy
  • Attending community meetings on development issues

Learn more about how to protect marine nurseries and keep coastal ecosystems healthy by visiting the following websites:

Reference as: Ecological Society of America. 2010. Communicating Ecosystem Services Toolkit: Marine Nurseries What You Can Do to Protect Marine Nurseries Services. Online at www.esa.org/ecoservices

Updated: August 24, 2010.